An artist’s conception shows a lunar lander with scientific payloads. (NASA Illustration)
NASA has chosen three commercial ventures that haven’t yet launched anything into space to deliver science experiments to the moon’s surface, starting next year.
Today’s awards are the first to be announced under the terms of the space agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS, which draws from a “catalog” of flight opportunities offered by nine commercial teams.
Each team proposed flying specific payloads to the moon, and this summer NASA will determine which experiments will be delivered by which teams. The potential payloads focus on subjects ranging from basic lunar science to precision navigation and solar power generation.
The first three teams to win contracts are:
Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh-based company that has been awarded $79.5 million. Astrobotic proposes flying as many as 14 payloads for NASA to Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the moon, by July 2021. Astrobotic’s partners include DHL, Airbus DS, Dynetics and United Launch Alliance.
Intuitive Machines of Houston, which has won $77 million and is proposing to fly as many as five payloads to Oceanus Procellarum, a big dark spot on the western edge of the moon’s ...